HEALTH

Cancer-Free Christmas Present For Boy Who Battled His Whole Life

His mum was told he wouldn't make it. They decided to give it one last go.

21/12/2016 10:33 AM AEDT | Updated 21/12/2016 4:27 PM AEDT
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Josh Johansen fought cancer and won.

Looking at a photo of her five-week-old baby, Alison Johansen noticed something was not right.

"You know how sometimes you get a red reflex in the pupil of the eyes? Well Josh had one eye red, but the other was gold," Johansen told The Huffington Post Australia.

"There were a lot of photos, we took a lot, and we kept seeing the gold."

What she was seeing was in fact a type of cancer that had filled the little boy's eye socket and weeks later, his eye was removed.

"I can't tell you how it felt to hear that," she told HuffPost Australia. "It's a horrible thing no parent wants to hear about their newborn child.

"It seems a lifetime ago, but like yesterday as well."

That diagnosis was the beginning of a journey that would require Josh to fight for his life over and over.

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Josh received blood and platelet infusions throughout his treatment.

After having chemotherapy, laser, cryotherapy and more on his eyes, Josh was at school one day when his teachers noticed a lump in his neck.

"As soon as I saw it, I knew something wasn't right," Johansen said.

"It was as big as a golf ball."

Experts confirmed it was a new primary cancer and after it was removed, they found there were more tumors inside him.

I said to the oncologist 'if this was your child what would you do?'Alison Johansen

"He had a mass at the base of his scull the size of man's fist, and that it was all through his sinuses, it was a mess.

"They said there was very little chance they'd get it all because it was a very aggressive adult cancer and he was so young. They said there was not a lot they could do."

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Josh missed about two years' of school during treatment.

He had eight months of intensive chemotherapy and within about a year, the tumors had melted away.

"It was unbelieveable. To go from being told there was little hope to them being gone was incredible."

That was February, but in April, the cancers came back.

How the kindness of strangers kept Josh alive

Blood and platelet infusions sometimes were the difference between being able to walk, and having to be carried.

"Some days, I'd have to carry him into the room, he'd had a platelet infusion, then he'd run out," Johansen said.

"Blood is the greatest gift you can give, every time he had an infusion, I would hold the card and say a silent prayer to the people who had given it.

"It's such precious gift and it doesn't cost anything."

Christmas is a difficult time for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the nation still needs 5000 blood donations between Christmas and New Year in order to prevent a shortage of blood products.

Platelets can't be stockpiled so the service needs donors right through the Christmas season.

To make an appointment to donate please call 13 14 95 or visit donateblood.com.au

"This time the cancer had breached the blood and tissue barrier into the brain. The oncologist sat me down and said 'we tried, and it looks like it isn't working'. He said Josh could be put on medication and he would pass away in 6-8 weeks. I just didn't want to hear that. It was the worst day of my life.

I said to the oncologist 'if this was your child what would you do?'. He said: 'If Josh was my son and I had the bond that you guys have got and the fight and strength that Josh has got, I'd give it one more shot'.

I said 'let's do it'."

That was about four years ago, and this week, right before Christmas, Josh was given the cancer all clear.

I could have been mourning his anniversary this year and instead he's been given a second chance of life.Alison Johansen

"It's taken a day or two to sink in, that we don't need to keep testing every six months. I'm so ecstatic, but it's also still scary. The first 9-10 years of his life were extremely rocky and now I need to let go of the safety net that is regular testing.

"I know for Josh, we have to move forward, it's wonderful. I could have been mourning his anniversary this year and instead he's been given a second chance of life.

"It's all the Christmas present I'll ever need."



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